Coop vs Opposed

Published October 6, 2015

I’ve always enjoyed video games more as a cooperative environment instead of oppositional. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy first-person shooters like 007 and Call of Duty, but they always feet more rewarding to me when I was winning with friends instead of beating opponents. Similarly, when playing the original StarCraft online, I liked cooperating with humans against the computer. However, that’s not how most people like to play, and in general that’s not how most people think about life.

I was inspired to write this post after finding the kickstarter on the right by Hank Green of the VlogBrothers. It’s a fun sounding card game where: participants choose characters who then proceed to attend wizard school, and need to accomplish tasks utilizing the tools they’re given. The aspect that motivated this writing is that in order to win it requires a concerted effort, otherwise, everyone loses. That’s correct, the card game is cooperative. This was the first time I’d heard of this and was undoubtedly excited, and then I googled ‘cooperative card games’ and was presented with postings on Board Game Quest, Amazon, Board Game Geek, and found I was completely uninformed how prevalent this was.

I’m stoked about this. I love the expansion of this mentality, because I like it when everyone wins. Why does someone have to lose in order for me to win. The antithetical nature of dealing with conflict is pervasive in our culture and is probably rooted in our genetic instincts. Primitively, if too many other animals of the same species exist in near proximity it could be more difficult for myself and my offspring to survive. But we are entering an era where there doesn’t need to be a loser.

I’m not necessarily a proponent for full, no winners, everybody did the same by participating, kumbaya bull shit: nobody loses doesn’t mean there isn’t someone who stands out, or many who do. I’m suggesting we notice times that we are lowering some people in order to prop a few others up, as well as the effort it took to join the competition in the first place. Is it really worth degrading one person or group in order to establish a clear top, especially when the set-up required to quantify judgement typically mutates the competition in a manner that the winner may not even represent the initial goal.

Determining specifically who is the best seems useful, but how often is it really accurate? In order to generate this hierarchy of skill, we place extremely specific rules and limit the circumstances. Football is a metaphor of war (which one could say, on it’s own, makes it reprehensible), but obviously fails to tell us anything about who would be good in an actual battle. The similarities reside in the abstract nature of the game and quickly falter as soon as we explore the implementation. This is a good thing, because actual war with no rules is the worst. But in applying rules in order to create a system of judgement, we risk distorting the competition that it no longer tells us what we want to know. Another easy example is running. There are countless competitions that attempt to measure the abilities of man to traverse distances quickly. But what distance are we talking about, 100m, 400m, 1500m, 26.2 mi? What about flat terrain, mountainous, or even with obstacles? When in reality the combination of all of these would be the best example of what we are attempting to judge, but that person probably isn’t good enough at any one of these events to be the top. I also don’t suggest we rid ourselves of sport competition, but attempting to say that we know any more than, “these several teams tend to score more points than the rest” is an oversimplified extrapolation of what we have actually observed.

So now we know who are potentially the top 5 groups of individuals who can coordinate together and accomplish a simulacrum of what we intended to test. Does this new knowledge provide us with some prediction of things to come, not necessarily. Though this is usually due to the fact that most of us don’t understand statistics and causality properly. But also because we have moved away from the answer by forcing it into quantifiable boxes.

My point to all this comes down to the way this leads people to think about the rest of their lives, specifically business. Again, I’m not saying we need to be a communistic country or anything like that (even if it was the best option, we aren’t ready for it). We have not reached a point where we could support everyone involved with only a few people putting in effort. Generally, people still need external motivation to contribute back to society: there needs to be some selfish goal that drives them. But that mentality stems from the idea that success is inherently exclusive when it could be shared. Imagine the scenario where you own a hotel, and then Airbnb is invented. Your first inclination is that the additional competition is detrimental to your own business and some of that is probably true. A contrary perspective could be, that this is actually good for your business because it caters to a distinct demographic for which your hotel didn’t. Some of these people will then realize they would prefer a hotel with more amenities and become patreons down the road. From a broad perspective, it provides the opportunity for happiness through travel to people who couldn’t have experienced it previously. Individually, you may see a decrease in your market share, but the welfare of your employees may be improving without any effort from you. The resources you were using in a mediocre attempt to attract those who start using Airbnb, can now be redirected into the customers who generate the majority of your business. A shift in perspective, turns this binary winner/loser problem into a possible across the board gain.

It comes down to perspective and empathy, which seem to be the portions of shared subconscious having the largest transformation over the last 40 years. We begin by changing from our personal perspective to that of someone else, or even that of society in general. This leads to an expansion of empathy which is an overall good thing.

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